I recently read Schiff’s “Cleopatra” and it created an amazing lesson for me. The majority of the book is about historical inquiry and the lack of data available on the woman herself. This lack, however, has not prevented people from forming an image of her based on the agendas of those who recorded her life peripherally (through the lens of men who surrounded her). Although there is no reliable portrait of her and perhaps one word by her hand, we all have clear ideas of her. Where do these ideas come from? George Bernard Shaw wrote that most of his information came from William Shakespeare – not exactly a renowned historian.
What does that tell us about what we know about history – especially ancient history? But also – even if we don’t know things definitively does that make us less wrong?